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Hispanic Heritage Month in NIC celebrates vital ministries

Posted: September 26 2023 at 11:00 AM
Author: Rev. Fabiola Grandon-Mayer NIC Director of Connectional Ministries

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2

The Hispanic/Latinx community is one of the largest demographic groups in the U.S., with a population of 62.1 million. In Northern Illinois, the Hispanic/Latinx population is 1.9 million and continues to grow rapidly. 

This makes Hispanic Heritage Month—Sept. 15 to Oct. 15—very important to The United Methodist Church as a whole and our conference in particular. It’s a time we set aside to celebrate and appreciate the contribution of the Hispanic/Latinx community in our country and our churches.

The United Methodist Church is served, in various settings, by almost 1,000 self-identified Hispanic/Latinx clergy and has about 240 Hispanic/Latinx congregations, according to Ask the UMC. Our Northern Illinois Conference has 17 Hispanic/Latinx churches and new faith communities and 28 pastors and lay missioners who serve in Spanish-speaking congregations and cross-cultural appointments. 

“In order to love our neighbors, we must see them, and see them as our neighbors,” says Bishop Dan Schwerin. “Within these 30 days we have a wonderful opportunity to honor our Hispanic congregations, their lay and clergy leaders and to name how we want to increase our support and impact of these vital ministries.”

The last couple of years have been challenging for the Hispanic/Latinx community in our country, and now they are recoving and continuing the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

“We are still grappling with the global pandemic, societal inequalities, natural disasters, and the ongoing political divisions that have persisted in our nation. These issues have disproportionately affected the Hispanic community,” says Dr. Michelle Maldonado, director of multilingual communications for United Methodist Communications

“Nevertheless, amid these challenges, we find reasons to celebrate. The resilience ingrained in the Hispanic DNA has been a source of strength during these trying times. We celebrate the collective achievements of our community.”

Among those achievements are wonderful developments in Hispanic/Latinx ministry across our conference. We continue to welcome new neighbors by generating creative programs for the Hispanic/Latinx immigrants in our area.   

Our Redeemer Of Calvary Hispanic Ministry

Members of the Spanish-speaking El Redentor del Calvario and the English-speaking The Redeemer of Calvary UMC celebrate many events together, including Easter.

The people of El Redentor del Calvario/The Redeemer of Calvary UMC in Chicago, under the leadership of Pastor Noemi Meza, is a good example. Both English and Spanish are spoken at this congregation. Since 2022, in partnership with Chicago’s 16th District police station and Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors, the church has conducted four “Know Your Rights” workshops for asylum seekers. In addition, the church collected, ahead of winter 2022, cold-weather clothing for those who recently arrived from Venezuela.

“Our church has a food pantry that provides food for 250 individuals, which will feed approximately 750 people, from the Little Village, Girsh Park, 71st and California, and Pilsen neighborhoods [of Chicago],” says Rosa Garcia, lay missioner from Chicago Lawn.

Franklin Park Hispanic Worship

The Movement in the City in Franklin Park celebrating Sunday worship.

Our conference’s most recently established Hispanic/Latinx new faith community is The Movement in the City/Franklin Park UMC, under the leadership of Pastors Roberto Moreno and Jackie Salgado. They gather every week for worship, fellowship, and Bible study. The group has been a welcoming community for refugees and immigrants in the area, showing love and care through food, clothes, and spiritual support.

We also continue to offer the Conference Academy for Faith Community Development, which “is a portal for recruitment and learning,” says Rev. Martin Lee, NIC director of congregational development and redevelopment. “Its goal is to develop Christlike servants based on demonstrated giftedness. Participants are admitted by recommendation based on fruitfulness rather than having a specific educational background.”

The annual Hispanic/Latinx Celebration, which this year takes place on Oct. 7 at Franklin Park UMC, is a featured observation of the heritage month here in Northern Illinois. (Find more information here.) It gathers pastors, lay missioners, and laypeople from all the Hispanic/Latinx churches in our conference for a time of worship, training, fellowship, renewal, and camaraderie.  

“Our annual Hispanic/Latinx ministry celebration highlights the numerous and diverse ministries within the Northern Illinois Conference,” says Rev. Patricia Bonilla, chair of the Hispanic/Latinx Ministry Team.

Bishop Schwerin invites all Northern Illinois United Methodists to take time this month to pray for the Hispanic communities in our conference, a ministry we share, so “that we might be open-table people who extend the beloved community for the love and justice of Jesus.”

Find Hispanic Heritage Month resources from ResourceUMC here.

Your giving to NIC Apportionments supports  vital congregation work, the Office of Revelopment and Development, new faith communities and intentional redevelopment, Justice for Our Neighbors, and the Hispanic Ministry Team.

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